The Mundaneum preserves several thousand newspapers from around the world.
The International Press Museum, founded in 1905 by Otlet and La Fontaine, aimed to collect the first and last issue of each press title, as well as special issues.
Information channel by excellence, the Belgian press in the early 20th century was in full bloom thanks to the freedom of the press guaranteed by the Constitution, technological innovations and faster means of communication. Over 1000 newspapers and periodicals (including a hundred daily papers) from all viewpoints coexisted.
During the First World War, this medium will be censored, controlled by the enemy or operated underground
The opposing parties were well aware of the extent to which the daily press influenced the population and the importance of controlling it. All those involved wanted to control the press, partly to prevent disclosure of strategic information and partly to spread their own propaganda
When the German invasion was announced, the Belgian press had to submit - like it or not - to military censorship by the Government, which wanted to prevent the enemy from learning sensitive information such as troop movements, the number of artillery pieces available, or the number of wounded or prisoners.
Anything that would harm the morale of the troops or the populace was also banned
This meant that the quality of information was mediocre; in fact soldiers invented the term “bourrage de crâne” - rubbish - to describe propaganda articles from the hinterland, designed to support the morale of the population and foment a deep-seated hatred of the Germans
In the early days of the Occupation, the disappearance of many Belgian newspapers was a problem for the Germans, who needed to have the press in their favour in order to win over public opinion in the occupied country
The news approved by Germany was almost all that was available to the Belgian people. This meant that they had no news of exiles, of soldiers at the front, or of the Belgian Government which had taken fled to Le Havre, and this in turn had the effect of demoralising the population. This demoralisation was made worse by the fact that only German victories - often exaggerated - were reported, and by a campaign to malign the Allies and the Government in exile
The occupiers also attempted to exploit the country's sensitive linguistic situation by introducing a policy designed to "Germanise" Flanders and split up the country. Two opposing currents appeared: the activists, who felt they should use the situation for their own ends, and the passivists, who preferred to wait for a solution to the problems until Belgium was eventually liberated. New newspapers were brought out to express the opinions of these two currents of opinion
As a reaction, clandestine newspapers appeared from the beginning of the Occupation; their aim was to act as an antidote to the poison being spread through the population by these “emboché” - pro-German - newssheets
Germany's ban on any media which did not support it meant that the people of Belgium were isolated.
To counter this, the clandestine papers published announcements by the Allies, as well as articles that appeared in the foreign press or the exiled Belgian press
The banned press also took the step of condemning the censored titles, disclosing the names of the journalists writing anonymously for the Occupiers. The clandestine writers were determined to show the danger nature of these newspapers, which appeared to be Belgian, but were in fact the voice of Germany
The humorous, mocking tone often used contributed to raising the morale of the people, who had little to laugh about
During the occupation, a very special kind of newspaper appeared: trench journals
When Liberation came, the censored press disappeared completely.
“Collaborating” journalists were often prosecuted for working alongside the enemy, although some tried to flee from Belgium and even moved to Germany.
Rôle — Nicolas Brunel, archiviste
Rôle — Raphaèle Cornille, Responsable du département iconographique